Like an ex-lover, Microsoft is sweet talking us…and saying all the right things!
You’ve heard me use the words “course correction” in the past when describing Microsoft. It’s a nautical term. Actually, I heard it on Star Trek. But the meaning behind it remains the same. When a company decides to head down a specific path, then they find that path is impassable, a course correction is necessary. They must then choose which direction they are going to go. Whether it be up over, down under or around an obstacle, being able to traverse these landmines in the marketplace is vital. It’s no different for a company selling a product than it is for men navigating the high seas (or on the bridge of the Enterprise for that matter). We saw a shining example of this during the weeks and months coming out of last year’s E3 (which lead into the launch window of the Xbox One).
While Microsoft’s next-gen showed promise, what we would see from them in the coming days was more flip-flopping and backpedaling than you could shake a South Park stick of truth at.
Their bad policies on used games and the myriad of other decisions that tarnished the early days of the Xbox One has already been covered extensively, so I won’t rehash that. My focus now is what moves Microsoft will make moving forward. For a company that has done a great deal to diminish its good will among gamers, there really isn’t much margin for error in what they do next. It is almost as if Microsoft finds themselves dropped smack dab in the middle of a huge Chess board. Only problem is, Sony isn’t their only competitor. The court of public opinion is a hidden advisory they must also contend with. Their early mistakes seem to have poisoned the well a bit in the eyes of many consumers, branding them as the company that cares more about control than the video gamer him/herself. At least, that’s the perception to some.
Fortunately for Microsoft, they are self-aware.
By all accounts, they’ve seen the writing on the wall and how pushing back against the very gamers they need could spell disaster for their long-term console plans. Take recent comments by Xbox’s Phil Spencer for example. Instead of trying to spin their shortcomings into a bunch of corporate jargon (citing “misleading marketing research” or “unintended consequences”), he’s decided to just take it on the chin. Here’s what he said in regards to the mistakes made by Microsoft last summer, as he continues is Mea culpa media tour: “When I heard how our message resonated with people...some of the decisions that we made that I think were actually the wrong decisions and we had to revisit those decisions…That two-way dialogue between us and the fans will be important as we drive this product forward. I think it's going to be a foundational element to the culture of this organization…we hear what fans say, they have great ideas, and we should use that as an input to how we build our product.”
I must say that, if Microsoft keeps headed in this direction, their chances of claiming the coveted number one spot will increase considerably. This new attitude (one where they acknowledge idiotic behavior), combined with a few calculated changes in how they intend to tackle the digital market on their console, could result in a real ballgame here. It appears they’ve finally gained some focus and are ready to make another serious run at their competitor (at least on the surface anyway).
So I do wish Microsoft all the best in the future, as I think the gaming world needs choices. No one option is ever good in business or entertainment, and in gaming least of all. However, if those on Team Xbox hope to make their latest console a true success story again (and not just a footnote in the book “How the PS4 Won the Console War”), they will learn from their biggest mistake. That is, don’t take gamers for granted. Thinking you can shove any policy down our throats, banking on the fact that we’ll just take it because we have no other choice, is a WRONG assumption. Ideas that look good on a marketing report don’t always translate, and now you’re paying for them.
It would seem that Microsoft now has their eyes on the prize. Amazing how much better they can see when not having their heads planted firmly in their asses.